Long before Airbnb became a website with more than 4 million active property rentals located in countries across the globe, the founder Joe Gebbia decided to trust some strangers who needed a place to spend the night while they were attending a local conference in San Francisco.
Thankfully, this first experience went well for Joe and his guests. Less than a decade later, Airbnb went on to become a $25 billion company and the best place to work in America (2016). You can learn more about the founding of Airbnb in a recent interview with Guy Roz at NPR’s How I Built This podcast.
The most frequent question asked by the would-be Airbnb host is “Should I rent my property on Airbnb? Before breaking down the nuts and bolts of what goes into managing an Airbnb property as a host, it’s worth providing some more information about the company itself and aaddressing the more basic question: “What is Airbnb?”
What is Airbnb?
At its core, Airbnb is a web-based property rental marketplace. As opposed to a large hotel managed by a distant international conglomerate, Airbnb properties are usually owned and managed by individual hosts like you and me. In many cases, property owners rent out a spare room in their home or apartment and share common areas, such as their kitchen or living room, with their guests. In fact, the majority of Airbnb rental properties, especially in larger cities, are rooms in owners’ homes.
Although there was a time when this kind of business model seemed too intimate and risky, social norms related to sharing one’s home with a stranger have changed. In the new sharing economy that has redefined travel, it’s not a stretch to say that Airbnb is largely responsible for this shift. Not surprisingly, Airbnb, the largest broker of these rental property transactions, has been handsomely rewarded for their efforts; collecting between 6% and 12% commission rates for each reservation completed on their website.
As simple as the model may sound, placing your home in Airbnb’s rental pool does come with various host responsibilities that are important to understand prior to pursuing an Airbnb “side hustle.” Inc.com profiles some successful Airbnb hosts in a well-written 2017 story and the some of those challenges are described. Additional stories of individuals supplementing their income or leaving their 9 to 5 job to manage a portfolio of Airbnb properties litter the Internet; one has only to search the Internet for a few minutes.
If you spend a few minutes searching for a property on Airbnb, you’ll find a wide variety of criteria: from a shared room to an entire house, to having a swimming pool, to having a washing machine or dog house. You’ll find property photos, guest/host reviews, maps, property descriptions, videos and other details about the property and surrounding area. In bigger cities like Boston, San Francisco and Miami, you’ll find a massive inventory of Airbnb apartments and spare rooms that are often rented at premium prices. In cities like Boston, proposed laws seek to limit the number of Airbnb rentals. Not surprisingly, this new “highest and best use” of these properties has often driven up already expensive real estate prices in many of America’s largest cities. In more exotic locations, it’s not uncommon to find beach bungalows, huts, floating homes and even tree houses. Look long enough, and you’ll even find a room at Dracula’s Castle in Romania (this offer unfortunately expired after the contest). In line with these unconventional housing options, Airbnb recently added Airbnb experiences to their website as well: tours with locals, hot air balloon rides, etc.
Should I rent my property on Airbnb?
We’ll cover some of the lower-level details later, but first, let’s tackle the big questions:
- Why should I rent my home or property on Airbnb?
- What is the potential return or benefit of renting my home or property on Airbnb?
- What is the possible downside?
- What kinds of skills are required to do be a successful Airbnb host?
- How much time will it take me to be successful managing an Airbnb property?
- What are the potential pitfalls, e.g. the worst case scenarios?
Let’s tackle the big question first: Should I rent my home or property on Airbnb?
Well, it totally depends on your personality, your property and your position in life. If you have the kind of attachment to your home or property that runs deep—almost irrationally so—then placing your asset in the care of a stranger may not be worth any amount of compensation. If however, you see your property as a commodity; let go of your emotional attachment, list your property and read on. Once you’ve come to grips with your willingness to deal with the periodic nightmare guest, you should run the numbers to assess the return on your investment. Don’t forget that as with all businesses, your investment or outlay includes not only up-front and future property improvements, but also your time and emotional well being. In most cases, the day-to-day tasks related to managing a rental property can be optimized, automated and even delegated, but it’s safe to assume that the bulk of your time will be spent keeping your property listing competitive and servicing guests. Expect questions about your BBQ, Internet access, pet policy, check out time, etc.
What are the benefits?
The obvious answer is “money.” Depending on the size and price of your property—and your expenses—you can easily make upwards of $20,000 annually although Inc.com points to $6,000 being the average profit for most Airbnb hosts. Fast Company offers an example from San Francisco where one owner (“Bradley”) generates a little more than $20,000 on a single San Francisco apartment after expenses.
For larger homes, it’s not uncommon to gross more than two or three times that amount if your rental activity is steady year round. In addition to monetary benefits, some hosts sincerely enjoy sharing their home with others while providing hospitality and travel advice. The New York times recently wrote an article about this “hospitable mindset” embraced by many of the early Airbnb hosts. Fortunately—or unfortunately—Airbnb has been pushing its hosts to operate more like an impersonal hotel and less like a friend’s spare room. Even with this push towards more central control and predictable guest experience, Airbnb hosts who leverage their room or property as a means to meet new and interesting people will find ample opportunity to demonstrate hospitality through one-on-one interaction.
If the gross revenue range of an Airbnb property ranges from $1,000 to $80,000, what factors determine profitability? The primary differentiator for hosts—similar to most commodities–is expense and market demand. In short, does an owner have mortgage payments, does snow need to be removed frequently, is the wear and tear on the property significant? And on the revenue side: Is the demand for your property high, can you charge a premium, are you cross-promoting other properties or services and are you managing your business efficiently with minimal expenses? If you’ve made it this far, and you’re in the process of “running the numbers” for different locations, it’s time to log in to AirDNA and do some additional research. AirDNA allows one to view the active number of Airbnb rentals by city or neighborhood and to then assess the average daily rate, the occupancy rate and the average revenue for Airbnb properties in the selected locale. The number of rentals over multiple years is also available along with a rich collection of other data. If for example you were considering renting a property in Boston, MA over say Newburyport, MA, you’d find
the daily rate is higher in Newburyport, but the occupancy rate and average rate is higher in Boston. In other words, a spare room in Boston would be in higher demand that in Newburyport and along the way, you’re return would be higher than in surrounding areas.
Creating an Airbnb Business Plan
As you gather information about Airbnb and determine whether this opportunity makes sense for you, you’ll want to begin gathering your thoughts in the form of a business plan. Since this is something I constantly depend on, I’m happy to dissect the different elements you’ll want to include in your own plan. But first, here are some of the benefits of creating a business plan for your potential Airbnb rental room or property:
- Estimating your potential expenses and revenue, which should provide an initial sense of your potential profit.
- Exploring and identifying your plan’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT).
- Sharing your best thinking with others who can provide helpful input.
- Documenting your plan allows you to revisit your plans so you can more easily track on your progress and make adjustments along the way.
With the benefits in mind, here is a potential outline you can use for your first Airbnb business plan.
I. Property location: city, neighborhood
II. Property characteristics: existing, new, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, proximity to restaurants, public transportation, amenities, airport, etc.
III. Property/room costs: a shared room will require little work, but a house or rental property should include property taxes, county taxes, city taxes, sales tax, utilities, etc.
IV. Expenses: sheets, cleaning, property expenses, state/federal taxes
V. Audience: is there a specific audience you’re targeting? Retirees, business professionals, singles, families?
VI. Marketing plan: how will you promote your listing? Include your draft listing description, price and other channels (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) you’ll use to promote your property. I suggest you undercut your competition initially by about 10-15% so you can grow the number of positive reviews.
VII. Policies: Write down your rules and policies. Are there expectations you have for guests? Places they should not go? Times of the day they should be quiet? This includes your cancellation policy.
VIII. Zoning and local hospitality laws: You need to do some research about whether you’ll be allowed to rent your home out. This may vary based on your specific neighborhood or building. Airbnb offers some helpful information about this item.
IX. Customer service: How will you ensure you provide excellent customer service? Will you follow up with guests before, during and after stays? Will you call them at some point? Will you leave candy or baked goods for guests? Make it your goal to become a super host.
What are the dangers of renting my property on Airbnb?
With over 4 million rental properties in their pool, it’s no surprise that websites like Airbnbhell.com have popped up documenting less-than-ideal rental stories from the perspective of hosts and guests. As someone who has rented out vacation and residential properties for over a decade, I would estimate that while about 97% of my guests were responsible, about 2-3% of my guests were not. Unfortunately, it also seemed like one of every 80-100 guests was deceptive and caused some type of damage to our home. I think it’s fair to say that as diligent as you may be in qualifying your guests, you will periodically run across some extremely negligent people; even if you’re diligent with guest qualification. The quotient of good guests to bad guests is even more likely to be out of whack if your property lends itself to parties (e.g. large beach house), and you rent your property out frequently, i.e. high volume. With that in mind, you may need to ask yourself if you’re cut out to be the heavy handed property manager in these types of situations.
The New York Times published a story in 2016 about one Airbnb host’s perspective. In addition to some of the more obvious issues like problematic guests and time commitment, Airbnb reminds the to-be host to check for potential issues with HOA rules, city ordinances, insurance, tax and the terms of one’s mortgage. In short, don’t forget to exercise due diligence before you begin renting your spare room or vacation rental property out on Airbnb since there might be other mitigating circumstances that will complicate your Airbnb rental business.
What Skills are Required to be a Successful Airbnb Host?
In truth, almost anyone can rent their room or property on Airbnb. However, it’s important to spend some time reflecting on whether your personality and skill set will ultimately set you up for failure or success. After managing multiple properties for more than a decade—and interacting with other hosts—I’ve come up with my unofficial list of qualities that describe an effective super host or property manager.
While kindness and hospitality are important, you are first and foremost managing a high-stakes business that can positively or adversely impact your guest’s business trip or vacation. Subsequently, Airbnb hosts must have some level of business acumen. Suffice it to say that when a guest pays to rent your property, their expectations are usually high. From the host’s perspective, managing your business with professionalism and skill can mean the difference between a safe situation and an unsafe situation, high or low operating margins and your future mental well-being. In terms of the discrete skills you’ll need to become a successful property manager, the following apply in order of importance:
- critical and objective thinking
- problem solving
- interpersonal communication
- time management
- follow through
While there are other skills that apply, these represent some of the more important traits we’ve needed over the years.
How much time will it take me to manage my Airbnb property?
There’s no hard and fast rule since your personal investment will vary depending on a host of criteria. For the most part, the time it requires to manage your property(-ies) will drop considerably as you automate tasks, carefully qualify guests and delegate certain roles. You will also become more efficient over time with day-to-day tasks like filling out forms, processing requests, coordinating cleaning, etc. Having said all of that, I would estimate that it has taken me about 1-3 hours per week to manage our busiest property, with some weeks requiring an extra hour or so. With a solid cleaner, maintenance person (hopefully the same person/group as your cleaner) and a well-defined rental workflow, much of our time is focused on speaking to our potential guests via phone to qualify them for the rental—more on qualifying guests in a future post. If you are also cleaning your property, expect your time commitment to be much higher.
If managing a busy property can be accomplished with so little time, what’s the catch? Not mentioned is the dreaded property maintenance effort and the periodic nightmare guest. We offer advanced Airbnb host tips on this site to help you consider how to minimize negative interaction with guests by managing your property with liability and the guest experience in mind. It goes without saying, the larger your property, the more time you will most likely spend assessing needs, fixing things and simply staying on top of the condition of your property. For those renting a single room, this upkeep will be reduced, but for those who aren’t in close proximity of their property/-ies that are large, checking the property periodically and addressing needed improvements will be essential. Keep in mind that even if you have the most competent cleaner and maintenance person, there will almost always be a disconnect between the eye of the owner and the eye of the individual or team cleaning the property. In many cases, this disconnect is caused by the limited time frame most cleaners or repair crew have: Their goal is to get in and out as quickly as possible. With our beach rental property, personal visits were required to assess whether furniture needed to be replaced or if sand needed to be moved. We also comped friends and family from time to time and asked that in return they provide a thorough status check on the property. In many cases, we chose to paint rooms ourselves, fixed our jacuzzi tub, repaired the roof, patched holes in walls and were present to make high-stakes decisions that required hiring a specialist and investing in the property. In short, don’t expect your vacation rental to be the best place to pursue your own vacation if you’re ultimately responsible for keeping the property in shape.
Airbnb Property Expenses
If you already own your home or apartment and you’re simply going to rent out a spare room, it should be straightforward to calculate your expenses. However, don’t forget to check on your increased costs for insurance. And, expect to see a regular outflow of capital for towels, sheets and any new furniture or items you refresh regularly like soap, Internet, etc. And like any roommate or guest, expect your heating/AC expenses to increase. If you’re in a large city with limited parking, you may need to invest in an additional parking pass. Lastly, don’t forget to include cleaning or repair expenses if you’re hiring someone for this work.
If you’re renting an entire home that you do not live in, you should expect many of the costs mentioned above, but also more involved maintenance and upkeep expenses. Septic tank not working? Snow or sand removal? Broken appliances or cigarette holes in the carpet? Warped window sills? With a larger property typically comes more revenue, but also more guests and guest problems. The best way to think about your expenses in a larger home is to assume you’ll be churning through appliances and furniture; especially if you’re promoting your property as a high-end or premium option. Based on our 10+ years of managing properties, I’d suggest budgeting $200-$400 per month for these kinds of upkeep item; more if your volume is high. If you’re home is older, you should also expect property improvement expenses, e.g. roof, siding, windows, etc. In short, do your best to set aside enough money each month to cover these kinds of expenses and don’t ever forget you’re renting an asset that requires ongoing capital investment to keep it competitively positioned in the market. In other words, be frugal, but don’t be cheap.
Airbnb Host Insurance
Before wandering into a discussion about Airbnb host insurance for rental properties, it’s imperative that any future Airbnb host review Airbnb’s host protection insurance information on their website. As stated on Airbnb’s website, “The Host Protection Insurance program now provides primary coverage for Airbnb hosts and landlords, as additional insureds, in over 15 countries. Our program protects against liability claims up to $1 million USD that occur in a listing, or on an Airbnb property, during a stay.” While Airbnb does not provide an extensive list of what’s covered in the event of guest negligence, they do provide some guidance around the kinds of damage that would be covered under their host insurance policy; and, don’t forget to check on which countries are covered under this policy—the list is available on their website. If the terms of the host insurance are insufficient for your specific property, Airbnb also offers supplemental insurance called Host Guarantee Insurance. As described on Airbnb’s website, Host Guarantee Insurance is meant “to protect against rare instances of damage.
Is Additional Property Insurance Required?
Sizing up insurance needs is always a complicated task. An insurance company is typically willing to provide you with any level of base and supplemental insurance on just about anything you’d like to insure—at a cost.
In light of Airbnb’s standard Host Insurance policy, should a host carry additional property insurance? First, an Airbnb host should check to see if their existing policies will accommodate this new business-related function. Most home insurance policies carry a “business pursuit’s exclusion,” which would negate any claim involving a business’ use of the insured property.
In this context, the challenge arises when someone rents a place on Airbnb that is not their residence. The Airbnb hosts collects money and rents their dwelling to guests; which is essentially no different than a commercial hotel that carries commercial insurance. Not surprisingly, a commercial insurance policy is not designed to meet the same needs as a residential home owner’s insurance; especially as it relates to liability. Just like any responsible landlord, carrying the appropriate insurance not only protects you, the owner, but also the guests.
OK, so now that you’re informed, what steps should you take to insure your property. Well, first, you should be aware that even if you call your current insurer to hypothetically inquire about this option, they may cancel your insurance unilaterally. See some anecdotal reports of this happening recently. With few viable options available, you should check out Proper Insurance Services who offers an Airbnb-compliant home insurance policy under the umbrella of Loyd’s of London. One Airbnb host shared the following advice (see quote below):
According to my insurance agent (Erie Insurance) Lloyds of London is the ONLY legitimate insurance company that completely and legally covers an Airb&b. We found them through Proper Insurance Services LLC. 888-631-6680. It will cost at least double of what a homeowners insurance policy would be. We have a big house with an outdoor jacuzzi so it was worth it for us. She read through the policy and coverage and gave us the thumbs up. Unfortunately Erie doesn’t offer anything yet but she said they are working on it. I’m not sure about other parts of the country though. I’m sure there are others to choose from in other states.
Listing Your Airbnb Property
If you’re goal is to increase your rental frequency and command a premium price in your locale, your property listing has to pack a punch. In many ways, the relatively compact length of most listings and the ubiquity of so many similar descriptors and property characteristics belies the fact that much can be done to differentiate your property from the rest.
So, what are the essential elements of a compelling post and how does an average Airbnb host capitalize on this information to boost their price, customer satisfaction and rental frequency.
- Accurate and engaging copy
- High-quality photos
- Upward trending customer reviews
- Solid host profile
Accurate and Engaging Copy
Is your rental property small? Does it lack a TV or Internet? Is the parking a nightmare? Don’t hide these details as you’ll simply be kicking your deficiencies down the road until your guests arrive and discover your cover up. Customer service of any kind is about delivering on expectations. Before we talk about enhancing or accentuating your properties strengths, you need to own and reference its weaknesses. For example, after staying at a small Airbnb condo at the base of a ski resort last weekend, my wife remarked that the unit looked much bigger in the website photos. After reviewing the website description, the term “cozy” was used up front and one of the positive guest reviews did refer to the property as “small.” There was no table for meals, but the kitchen island did have stools stacked nearby to accommodate up to 5 people around the island; probably helpful to mention that detail in the post description. While we still felt like the town home was suitable for our needs, the listing title lacked detail. Even though the unit was a “ski in/ ski out” unit at the base of the ski resort, the property owner had chosen a property name consisting only of the city name whereas, “Renovated 2BR Sugarloaf Ski In/Out Condo” would have fit better with the strengths of the unit and the maximum length of the title space. In this suggested title, I’ve highlighted 3-4 strengths of the unit (2 bedrooms, ski in/out, renovated, resort name) while prioritizing each element accordingly. In selecting these particular characteristics of the unit, I’ve also chosen to align my description with a specific audience: a group of five or fewer guests who value access to the resort and will almost certainly be skiing. I’m also assuming guests will be willing to pay a slight premium for a renovated unit and my longer description would unpack these enhancements with photos and detail about the upgraded amenities.
Even though reducing your property description to 35 characters may be challenging, you’ll have 250 characters in your detailed description to further showcase the unique elements of your property.
Here’s one example of what not to do from a condo unit in Maine.
“My place is close to Base Lodge, ski trails, chair lifts, restaurants, health club, bars, nightlife. You’ll love my place because of The on mountain location. My place is good for couples, solo adventurers, business travelers, families (with kids), and big groups.”
Lucky for this owner, the quality of his property more than carries the weight of the customer experience and his 20+ five-star reviews seem to agree. However, the tone of the writing is too informal (“My place…”), there are several grammatical issues and there is no mention of his properties most important characteristics; especially since he has at 250 characters to play with in his description. In contrast, a nearby property offers the following description.
Log Home located at Sugarloaf Mountain in Carabasset Valley Maine. Maine’s largest ski resort. This 4 bedroom home is a perfect ski in / ski out location.
* Full Gourmet Kitchen with granite counters and red birch cabinets – gas stove, grill, full kitchen equipment needs.
* Large Dining area that sits 8 plus counter seating for 6.
* 4 bedrooms
* Two TV rooms
* Full Laundry Room
You will have access to the entire home except 1 main floor bedroom and 1 closet in the bottom floor.
Interaction with guests
We will be available by phone if you need anything.
Like any solid property description, this owner has introduced his property appropriately (location, size, most unique characteristic – ski in/out) and then details the properties strengths in a bullet list. To improve on the introduction, think about additional features of the property that stand out when staying in the unit: architectural style, condition, pleasing ambient noises (birds), the beauty of the surrounding area and why this property would be suitable for your target audience. Instead of the short introductory sentence used in the description above (Log Home located at Sugarloaf Mountain in Carabasset Valley Maine. Maine’s largest ski resort. This 4 bedroom home is a perfect ski in / ski out location.), perhaps an introduction that includes the following language would be more suitable:
“Enjoy this beautiful ski in/ski out home nestled at the base of Sugarloaf’s popular trails. Located in Carabasset Valley Maine, this 4-bedroom home offers the perfect blend of modern amenities and apres-ski charm. Break up a full day of skiing with a mountainside lunch on our deck and kick up your feet in our 4-person hot tub as you watch the stars. Cozy up to the stone-covered fireplace while enjoying the spacious great room and adjacent media room. This is the perfect home for several families or for smaller groups who prefer staying in a luxurious home as opposed to a small condo.
Other Things to Note
Let your guests know if you often have pets in your space even if they won’t be home during your guests’ stay and share whatever information they might find helpful about your neighbors. Some guests are extremely allergic to pet dander or hair, so be very careful to respect this. At one Florida condo we stayed at (which was heavily populated with retirees), we were constantly surprised to find our 3 children weren’t very appreciated unless they were extremely quiet before and after certain hours. Also, are there parking challenges or rules to be aware of? Is parking allowed on the street during certain days and hours, but not allowed during other days and hours? If your guests are cohabiting your property with you or others, are there food allergies or considerations they should be aware of like noise level and temperature?
If there’s one listing feature that can really differentiate your property listing its your photos. Suffice it to say that the majority of your potential renters will make their decision exclusively on your title, price, availability and most importantly, your photos. Before uploading photos from your cell phone, give some thought to your property’s aesthetics. Which angle, feature and time of the day does your property most shine? And, perhaps most importantly, are you actually qualified and equipped to capture these features? Depending on your property location, Airbnb will help you locate a professional photographer. Airbnb also offers photography tips with a bonus tip suggesting owners add the maximum number of photos.
If you’re unable to go it alone, consider bartering with a friend who owns a high-quality camera and has a proven ability to represent people or places with an artistic eye. In the past, we often bartered with professionals and offered one or more “off-peak” “nights at our rental home in exchange for a service. Again, if photography is not your strength and if a photographer friend doesn’t exist, bite the bullet and hire a professional photographer.
The Money Shot
If you are going to go it alone or help direct a professional, figure out what your money shot is and make sure you take numerous takes of this view at different times of the day and month. When we were promoting our beach house, our money shot—not surprisingly—was a photo of the back deck with the ocean in the background. If you’re renting a townhome in Brooklyn Heights, a picture of the tree-lined street with brownstone facades would fit the bill. In short, think about what most excites your potential audience. If you’re unsure, ask some friends for input.
Upward trending customer reviews
Second to only your photos are your customer reviews. In today’s sharing economy, you are sharing your asset(s) with your guests, but they are also sharing their input with each other. If you’re hoping to maximize your profits and turn your rental business into a sustainable enterprise, do everything in your power to generate positive customer reviews. Be warned that if you don’t cultivate your customer reviews, you should plan on transitioning out of the property rental business.
With a sense of urgency in place, spend some time strategizing your approach. First, make sure your listing description is accurate and your property is fairly priced so that you’re well positioned to over deliver on the customer experience. And, whatever you do, if you’re dealing with valid customer complaints during or after a stay, DO NOT under any circumstances under deliver by dismissing or ignoring these types of requests. Water tank failure for a few days? Roofer who needs to fix some shingles while guests are at the home? Appliances that absolutely need to be replaced while guests are present? Comp your guests a night (or two) and ask them if there is anything else you can do to ensure their stay is outstanding. Whatever you do, do not trick yourself into thinking that short-term gain is worth the long-term cost of negative customer reviews. What else can you do to ensure positive customer reviews? While this guide is loaded with helpful content, the following tips are perhaps the most valuable:
Email or call your customer a day or two prior to their stay. Make sure they’ve received their check-in information and ask if they have any other questions or needs. Use this connection point to help build rapport. At the end of the day, it is extremely important that they connect the property they are renting with a human being they identify with and like.
After they have been at the unit for a day, call them on their cell number. Check to make sure everything is going OK. Ask them if there are any other needs they have regarding their stay. In many cases, a disgruntled guest will not reach out to the property owner until they’ve wrapped up their stay and have time to detail their complaints. And again, be personable and ensure they know they’re renting from a person who takes pride in the property they are staying with. If you are staying with them in the property, ask them directly if everything is OK and consider leaving a small postcard with some questions and checkboxes to put them at ease with the input gathering process.
A day after they have left your property, send a personal email to your guest thanking them for their stay. In the email, remind them that the success of your business depends on the positive experiences of your valued guests. Thank them in advance for a positive review and let them know you appreciate the opportunity you had to earn that from them. If they have any concerns about their stay, ask them to call or email you directly before filling out the survey so you can address them.
While these suggestions may seem over the top, they describe the kind of commitment super hosts have in relation to customer reviews. If you don’t have the time to pursue this approach, I would at a minimum recommend at least calling your guests a day after they have arrived at your unit. More than any other connection point, that juncture will prove most fruitful in terms of mitigating negative reviews and solving in-progress rental issues.
Solid host profile
Your main goal in achieving a reputable host profile is to work towards the Super Host status. Airbnb provides the needed criteria to achieve this status on their website. Beyond that, you’ll obviously want to use a professional-looking photo and include a helpful personal description.
Rules, Laws and Guest Expectations.
In your Airbnb property listing, you can include any rules or preferences you may have in regards to your property. If no children are allowed or if there is a “no noise” policy after a certain time of the day, you’ll need to include that information in your property description or property details.For owners of apartments in larger cities, you should also make sure you’re allowed to rent your room or property via Airbnb. In many cases, tenants of apartments in cities like New York are are hosting their rooms and apartments without letting their landlords—bad move. Don’t forget that as a tenant you are often not allowed to sublet your rented property. And, in some cases, if your landlord finds out you’re doing this, you may be evicted.
The Perfect Reservation
Since you’ll spend a considerable amount of time evaluating whether you will pursue the role of Airbnb host, you should always keep your “eyes on the prize” as you progress from step to step. What is the end goal? For many, it may to be exclusively about revenue generation; but, ultimately, it’s really about the “perfect reservation.” And not surprisingly, that type of reservation includes prompt payment.
The end goal is about a “perfect reservation” because focusing on each individual customer stay and the quality of each discrete experience—for both you and the guest—will help bring the larger experience of Airbnb into proper perspective. On a day-to-day or week-to-week basis, engaging in the sharing economy should result in some profit for the property owner and service for the guest, but it should also hopefully result in personal growth, sharing one’s world with another and learning about the world through the eyes of others. In short, engaging in travel industry practices can allow hosts to bless others while meeting others who you may not have ever crossed paths with otherwise. At the end of each day, a perfect reservation is therefore about a five-star review, being paid on time, hassle-free customer interactions AND serving someone with an asset that is both physical (your property) and emotional or spiritual (your kindness, your willingness to go the extra mile). Embracing both and excelling in both areas will hopefully carry you through the difficult guests or the weeks or months when nothing seems to go right.
Understanding how to manage your cleaning service effectively is both an art, a science and in some respects, an impossibility. Over the years, we’ve worked closely with many different cleaning companies who were at times our best of friends and at other times, the source of our frustration. First, it’s important to state that in many cases, Airbnb hosts will clean their own rooms or homes. If that’s the case for you, there’s no need to read the rest of this section. For others, there are a few essential assumptions I have developed over the years based on my own personal experiences—and those of my fellow vacation property managers. First, in most cases, you’re rarely dealing with a single cleaner. You may have initially signed up with an individual who completed most of the cleaning themselves. But the economics of the industry invariably result in successful cleaners to hire small teams of others who typically are not as diligent or skilled as your lead. And, therein usually lies the problem—variability. In some cases, you may have a solid cleaner, but in others, your cleaner may be new, late or simply not skilled at cleaning. Depending on where your property is, it may be exceedingly difficult to hire anyone for these positions who doesn’t have a checkered employment background. At one point, we were dismayed to visit our property during a cleaner and find one of the cleaning crew smoking pot inside of our home. In other instances, our cleaner scheduler would forget to show up for a cleaning or would show up late. Even though we switched to a different business from time to time, missing cleanings, forgetting to check important property features or not following up with various requests was usually the cost of doing business. In many cases, I’m sure Airbnb find reputable cleaners who meet their business needs, but our own experience has been that it takes extra effort to stay on top of cleaning coordination and to ensure the established quality standards are maintained over time.
In light of these challenges, how does a new Airbnb owner who would like to hire a cleaner find some solid options? First, ask for references—several of them. Second, ask who does the actual cleaning and how often there’s turnover. Third, create a list of areas that need to be cleaned and detail how they should be cleaned. If possible, encourage the cleaner to operationalize your list by turning it into a checklist their team uses. Fourth, make sure you add any additional tasks to the list that may be somewhat peripheral to the cleaning, e.g. resetting heaters, checking your spice/condiment levels, ensuring toilets flush, restocking toilet paper, etc. Where tasks are out of scope, ensure you are compensating your cleaner fairly. Lastly, take care of your cleaner by paying them appropriately, sending a holiday bonus and thanking them at every turn for helping you run your business successfully.
Airbnb Host Mistakes (10 Mistakes You Should Never Make)
In light of the standards you set to serve your Airbnb guests with excellence, here is a list of 10 mistakes you should never make. I’ve ordered my list from the most important (10) to the least (1).
10. Do not any under circumstances short your guests on toilet paper. Early on, we foolishly thought we could save some money by providing our guests with just enough toilet paper for their stay. Do not do this. Ensure you’ve over supplied in this area and then add some extra rolls under your bathroom vanities. If you need to ask why this is our most important recommendation, book your own Airbnb and see how long you’re able to get by without any toilet paper.
And, when you think back to how much you paid for the opportunity to stay at your property, ask yourself how you felt when you had to drive to a new gas station or convenience store to make up for your host’s cheap skate tendencies. Case closed.
9. Don’t forget to place a spare key or two…or three… somewhere else on the property. Over the ten years that we’ve managed vacation rental properties, we’ve seen it all. Some of the most frustrated guests were those who couldn’t get in the home or locked themselves out of our home. And in a few cases, we had to rescue guests’ kids who locked themselves in rooms that had locks and no keys—we quickly removed those door knobs. The easiest way to do this is to simply install a few more lockboxes in different hard-to-find places on the front on your home. And, keep a few extra keys inside of your home—along with an extra garage door opener—so guests can grab those after arriving. By the way, it’s also a good practice to periodically swap out your locks.
8. Don’t mess with Internet access. In today’s virtually-powered world, there’s no saying what type of scary situations could emerge from slow or disconnected Internet. Unless you’re renting a tech-free tree house or wilderness experience, don’t short your guests on Internet speed or access.
7. Spare towels and sheets. Like toilet paper, you should have back ups to the back ups. You never know when your cleaner may have forgotten to change sheets or a guests’ child had an accident on your bed. In any case, you’ll want to have high-quality sheets on your beds and replacements nearby.
6. Do whatever you can to ensure your property is cleaned prior to guests arriving. Even with the best intentioned cleaners and impeccable communication, you will at some point have to deal with a property that was not cleaned prior to a guests’ arrival. Walk through your escalation plan before this ever happens so you know how to communicate with your guests, your cleaners and any additional parties who may jump in to help. In some cases, you may need to be that third party. In other cases, you may need to ask your guest whether they can wait (while you pay for their lunch or dinner) outside of the property while your cleaners regroup and do their best to expedite the request.
5. Say “no under any circumstances” to pets and then be ready to be flexible. OK, so you can obviously have a no pet policy, but be aware that some of your guests will not honor your policy—however hard you try to enforce it. In some cases, you may only find out because your “eye in the sky” neighbor has kindly passed on this helpful intel. In other cases, a gnawed door frame or dog hair will provide evidence. Whatever, the case, just be aware that for some people, a no pet policy doesn’t apply to their service dog or their exceedingly small hypoallergenic Fido who wears Scottish kilts and wool-knit sweaters. Think of this “don’t ever” as a reality check more than a guest expectation.
4. Minimize guest qualification. Don’t ever be cavalier or rushed when qualifying your guests. If you’re only connection point is Airbnb email (which is recommended), just be extra careful to ensure you understand what you’re getting into with a stranger staying in your room or vacation rental property. Over the decade plus that we’ve managed our properties, hearing someone’s voice on a phone and sizing them up with the right questions has often helped us flag problem guests and weed others out before they entered our property. You won’t need to do this very often if your guest has a reputable profile, but if any flags pop uup, you should feel comfortable reaching out via phone. How does this occur? Call your potential guest and spend some time asking your potential guest if they have any questions about the property and if they’ve stayed in an Airbnb or VRBO property before. Ask them some other questions about their group and scan for any red flags. Do they sound like they’re under 25 and looking for a Spring Break party pad? Do they seem evasive when you ask them who else is staying at the property with them?
Are they asking for anything unusual such as a delay with the payment or use of extra parking spaces? If there’s one tip I can offer in this area, it’s to be thorough, a bit paranoid and to follow any flags that pop up. And most importantly, follow your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, there’s probably something you should avoid. While we have many stories about nightmare guests over the years, perhaps the most intriguing was the Russian “pastor” who asked for numerous accommodations, was late with his payment and ultimately was caught throwing a wild party with strippers and drink guests jumping off our roof. We realized after that stay that it’s important to ask the right questions, look for inconsistencies and send someone over to do a quick check-in on the property exterior if there’s any concern. In this case, our maintenance person stopped by and saw our parking lot filled with extra cars and people drinking on our roof.
3. Access. It’s hard to rank this item, but in several cases, we were asked whether our property would accommodate someone in a wheel chair or an elderly guest who had limited mobility. In each case, we were up front about our property’s stairs and other issues.
2. Don’t over-advertise your property. By this, I simply mean don’t over promise or stretch the truth about your property. If your property is small, don’t try to make it look larger than it is. If the location of your property is less-than ideal, be honest. If there’s limited parking or a grumpy neighbor, it’s best to be up front about those issues. Your guests will appreciate your candor and you’ll be less likely to over promise and under deliver. And ultimately, be realistic about your property price in relation to your property’s strengths and weaknesses.
1. Don’t stop learning. A recent article in Lifehacker documents what one couple learned after their Airbnb hosting experiences. In some areas, the number of new Airbnb units doubles or triples each year. While there’s ample room for more inventory in the vacation rental market, it’s likely that at some point you’ll be dealing with increased competition, zoning issues or guest complaints. Be humble and keep learning. And, if you’re so inclined, leverage your contact with guests to learn more about the world around you so you’re able to bless and be blessed.